UCL’s ExoMars PanCam Kit One Step Closer to Mars


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The UCL-made ‘structural-thermal model’ of the ExoMars PanCam instrument for the joint ESA-Roscosmos (Russian space agency) 2018 rover mission leaves UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) today for Airbus UK in Stevenage. This is the first of several steps on the way to Mars - in 2016, UCL will deliver engineering- and flight models. The flight model will be the actual instrument which travels to Mars where it will identify promising targets for the mission.

“It’s exciting to finally be delivering our first hardware”, said Professor Andrew Coates, who leads the international PanCam team as Principal Investigator (UCL MSSL). “Ever since we proposed the instrument in 2003 following the loss of Beagle 2, we have been looking forward to imaging on the surface of Mars, and this is the first tangible step after years of preparation.”

The PanCam team is international, with key contributions from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the UK.

“This has been a huge team effort, with more to come”, said Project manager Craig Leff (UCL MSSL). “Our team at MSSL has led the building and testing of the structural-thermal model, incorporating some hardware from our German and Welsh colleagues as well, which has been useful practice for the real thing. We look forward to the coming year or two and the challenges of producing a tested, calibrated flight model PanCam to send to Mars.”

The purpose of the structural-thermal model is to make sure everything fits together to test computer models of the rover’s thermal environment. This allows changes to be made to help ensure the rover’s survival in the harsh Martian conditions, which can range between just above zero during the day to -100 degrees C at night.

“The temperature on Mars is a particular engineering challenge for PanCam, as it is in an exposed position at the top of the mast, and the external temperature range is very wide, so it’s important that the thermal models are accurate”, said Mr Leff.

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